‘Twas a good year

First blog entry of 2018! Wooohooo! I thought I would be writing more last year as I hope I would, but there was just too much to write that I can’t keep up. LOL…

But of course, I will never start the year without a recap of my 2017 and what to look forward to for this new year.

Last year was about taking more risks, as I wrote in my 2017 first blog entry.

As I mentioned in my previous shares, I am not the type of person that would really take risks. I always want certainty. Every time I make a decision, I always make sure that’s really what God wants me to do. And, God has been so gracious to me that He truly works in my life that way also. He does not allow confusion in my life. He really knows me well. 🙂 It’s always a Yes or No.

Anyway, the risks I was telling you were really more on taking bigger steps on things that I feel like I won’t really be able to do and hoping would have lasting value. And by God’s grace, He enabled me to take some. As I look back now, I don’t know how I could have done it. But He is a good Father. He does not let us stay the same. He wants us to walk by faith. And I always tell God, if He does not want it, then just stop me from doing it. So, I still have to see how things will be. But before I talk about the future, I’d like to share what I had done last year that really made me grow as a person. It may not be risks for you, but me knowing me, I just don’t know how I could have done it. Amazingly, God also uses people to just push you, walk with you, support you, pray for you and encourage you. And, I’m truly grateful for those people!!

My 2017 Risk list… LOL…

1. Push your limit

Every summer, my church friends and I would always try to do a lot of hiking as it’s really the only time of the year we can do a lot of outdoor activities. Years before, we’ve always wanted to go to Wedgemount Lake but the trail is difficult. But, last year we just had to do it. We kinda hesitated but still in the end we found ourselves hiking to the lake. And I must say, it was really the most difficult trail I have done but the view was worth it. Though, I don’t think I will ever do it again. I don’t know how we survived the last part of the trail. I was praying endlessly as the trail was really dangerous. Thank God we made it back down!

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Another physical activity I challenged my self to do was the Rugged Maniac obstacle race. I always enjoyed obstacle races, it’s kinda like Amazing Race. However, the obstacle races I’ve done did not require strength and physical endurance. Those were just for fun. Rugged Maniac might be the easiest obstacle race compared to the other ones – Spartan, Tough Mudder, etc. But for me, it was the most extreme physical activity I’ve done in my whole life. LOL. So, I was kinda scared because I didn’t know if I’ll finish it – whole and safe. It was good because I had girlfriends with me who also joined for the first time. This one, I might do again next time. I really had fun – all mud & falling.

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Another not so physical activity that I had been procrastinating was to take my road test. For one, I never drove in the Philippines. I had some lessons but that’s it. Growing up, our family never owned a vehicle until I graduated from university. But then, I left home and moved to Manila. And living in Manila did not really encourage me to drive also. I don’t think I’ll ever dare. But when I moved here, I realize it’s really about time. I always feel like driving is not for me knowing that I’m no risk-taker. I feel like driving  is a risk…haha! I’m too cautious. It took me a lot of courage. Finally, I took my road test. And of course, I failed. Haha! But then, now I can keep moving. I just have to keep trying until I make it.

2. BIG Decisions

I was never a big dreamer until God showed me that indeed nothing is truly impossible for Him. On the latter part of 2016, I started having the desire to start my own company. This desire started when I realize how unfortunate it is for IT graduates at my hometown, Bacolod City, to not have so many opportunities for them to really work using their degree when they have so much potential. And so, when I went home that year, I asked my college classmates if they are interested to join me. I did not really get any response.  Fast forward next year , 2017. Two of my college classmates wanted to do the same. And so, we gave it a try. March of 2017, we launched our start up company and had our first client. We don’t know how to run a company. But, we do know how to provide service. And for me, that was enough to start. Our start up is based in Bacolod City. It is still struggling but I’m hoping that one day, we will be able to hire so many graduates and help build the IT workforce in Bacolod. Last December, we organized a hackathon event to really see the skills of the IT students. And, I was just impressed of how much potential Bacolod truly has. I really hope more IT jobs will come to Bacolod. And if you know potential clients, please let us know! More clients mean more jobs for the fresh graduates!

I’ve always enjoyed organizing events. God has blessed me with administrative gift that I am able to use it not just in my day to day job but also in ministries. Such a privilege. Last year, I organized two events – one for our church and one for Beautifully Waiting. And of course, I can never do it on my own. The difficult part of organizing is the time of planning and preparing. Last year was really one of the busiest and most tiring at my workplace for me. I was working on a big initiative that I felt like it used up all my mental and physical energy that every time I come home from work, I just want to go to bed. However, I trusted that God would sustain me as I took a step of faith in organizing those events. The good thing about those events were those were God’s events, not mine. And so, I just really surrendered to Him everything. And by His grace, He carried me through until the end. And also very grateful, there were people who were always willing to help. Also, for Beautifully Waiting event, it was my first time to speak and share in an event. When the event ended, I looked back of the journey before the event started and I was just in awe of how God just made everything happen. He did it!

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2017 was just the start of taking risks. This year, God has impressed in my heart that I need all the courage I could have to face all that’s going to happen this year. New opportunities, growth of our start up company, more events to share Jesus and spread His love, bigger decisions, lots of challenges. I told God to allow me to go through so many failures and rejections so that I will be more courageous. I am still that person who gets a little cautious at times. Scared of taking risks. Doesn’t want to take steps of faith. However, with what God had allowed me to go through last year, God showed to me that with the little faith I have, He can use it to accomplish big things. Really, it’s not just me being courageous but it is also because I have a BIG GOD who can do things beyond my expectations.

I know this is a pretty long blog but I hope I have somehow encouraged you, that we can never stay the same as we were years ago. For us to grow, we need to take little steps of faith, take some risks. But make sure, that those are really well-prayed. Prayer is the only weapon you have as you make those decisions.

May you have a courage-filled 2018!  God bless your 2018!

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

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Until One Day

In my quiet time reading today, I was reading about a rich, young man who asked Jesus the most important question anyone can ask,

“What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18)

As I reflect on it, it made me look back of how my life was before.

Before I came to know who Jesus really is and really have a personal relationship with Him, everything written in the Bible are merely stories for me. It didn’t have any meaning in my life. I didn’t know back then what was really the end goal of having faith. For what?

Until one day, I started asking myself what is really the purpose of doing all the religious activities I did growing up.

Until one day, I realize my sinfulness.

Until one day, I became personal with God. I became curious about Him. Who He really is. Why do I need to pray to Him? I don’t even see Him.

All those “concepts” I learned about God became truth to me. And not just simply truth, they became true in my life. The Bible started having meaning in my life – all the way from Genesis to Revelation.

Eternal Life? I never knew that would be true. That’s only for characters I see on television. You know, those who never die. Superheroes. Vampires. But that’s not God’s idea of eternal life. It’s incomparable.

As I continued to seek God and what Jesus did for me, I was opened to the truth. God created eternal life. And it has always been His plan. It started at the Garden of Eden. Before men fell into sin.

You might be in the same place I was more than a decade ago. Knowing but not really understanding. Doing but not really knowing the reason for it. Going on with life, thinking as long as everything seems to be going well, life is good.

I can’t convince you just like other people wasn’t able to convince me about the truth of the Bible. The truth of Jesus. The truth of eternal life. Only God can really do the work. But because I opened my heart to Him. I allowed Him to reveal the truth to me.  I was changed. And it will always be the best decision I have made in my life.

There’s a big difference with just knowing… it should be knowing Him & experiencing Him – His love, His forgiveness, His goodness, His mercy, His grace, His holiness. That my friend is life-changing.

I pray that you will give God a chance if you haven’t. What can you really lose?

Just like that rich, young man, for sure you have a lot of questions also. Give God a chance to answer it. Start with an open mind and heart.

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Don’t Dream Alone

I’m just amazed how God has taught me to dream bigger. As He showed to me how much He can accomplish through me, I got more inspired to dream for greater things. But those greater things always start with small steps and that’s where I am at right now.

Having a big God is enough to dream big. But, God never wants us to do it on our own. He wants us to share those aspirations, vision, goals with people. And that’s what make pursuing dreams exciting.

I’m grateful that my family supports me and believes in me all the way. It’s just nice to be able to share my dreams with them and make them part of it. Aside from family, it’s encouraging to be surrounded by friends who cheer for you as you take those small steps. Having that kind of affirmation confirms that what I’m pursuing is a possibility, knowing that with God nothing is impossible.

How about you? Are you living your dream? Are you pursuing it? Always remember that you don’t have to do it alone. Share it to the world! You’ll be surprised there are people who share the same dreams with you.

Big GOD!Big Dream!

On Deeper Faith

Two Sundays ago, I had the privilege to share one of my faith journeys during the worship service. I know I’ve blogged already about this 3 years ago, but I just thought it would be good to share again. I hope that this will encourage you to entrust your life to Jesus Christ so that you can walk in deeper faith. Blessed reading!

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Before I came to know Jesus I was a very independent person.  I am logical and thorough in my decision-making that I barely asked for counsel or advice from others. I would always want things done my way and was the type of person who would never make a decision until I was sure it would work out.  I was even awarded Most Self-Reliant in grade school.  Before I became a Christian, I did not know that God is not just an idea but a real person whom I can depend on and lead me. It took me a long time in my Christian walk to be in a place of surrender and dependence on God.  This is one the stories of the how the Lord shook my faith and brought me to that place of surrender and dependence.

It happened in the late part of 2013. My theme verse for that year was Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” — As I wrote in my journal, Jan. 20, 2013, “At this time of my life, I can sense God testing my faith. I can feel His hands pushing my faith beyond what I am used to.” End of writing– This was a time in my life when I had been praying if I should quit my corporate job and work fulltime in ministry.  By faith, I was ready to say yes to God and was ready to give up my career, my opportunities, my dreams – including my dream of immigrating to Canada.

In October 2013, there was an open position for Online Evangelism which I was very interested in. I submitted my application and went through the process. I said to myself that the result of my application will be my confirmation if I should stay or leave my corporate work. Of course I had to make sure, right? However, God had a different plan.  I sensed He wanted me to walk in faith and not by sight. So despite not being sure if my ministry application would be approved, and even with a chance of a promotion at work, I decided to resign. It was not an easy decision to make but God gave me a peace that “transcends understanding”.  November 23, 2013 –I wrote in my journal, “Many would say that I should not quit unless I have a new work to move to. However, that wasn’t what God is telling me. Every decision I made has been a step of faith and I’ve been grateful that God has been enabling me. I never thought I could make such decisions on my own. Without God, there would only be fear and doubts and lots of anxieties. And as I decided, it is with great faith and trust that God holds my future and it is for the best, it is for His glory. Whatever it will be, I know that He has prepared it and He will be with me as I journey towards it. End of writing —

Dec 27, 2013 was my last day in the company that I’ve worked for almost 9 years.  That was a day I will never forget. Do you believe in God’s perfect timing? That same day, I checked my personal email and saw a message from CCF HR. My application for the ministry was not accepted. Great timing, right? Of all the days I could’ve received that message, it was on my last day when there was no backing out of resigning.  I thought that when God asked me to walk in faith, it was about my willingness to give up my career and work full time. But His thoughts were different. He wanted me to walk in faith by bringing me to a place of uncertainty, to a great unknown.

In 2014 while everyone was looking forward to new beginnings, I was facing a new year of uncertainty. I got confused and lost. Walking in faith was getting harder. God asked me to quit my corporate job but it seemed He did not want me to do a ministry either.  Also, I prayed that when I quit my job I hoped there wouldn’t be any unplanned expenses for my family because I would no longer have health coverage but just 2 weeks after my last day my dad got into an accident. Talk about timing! God was really testing my faith. But despite the circumstances, He also enabled me to keep trusting Him. His peace did not allow fear and worries to overpower me. He showed to me in a very personal way that He had my back. All I needed to do was to depend on Him because I was reminded that He is the one who provided for my family and not me. He had the power to bless them without my help.

My journey into the great unknown continued. I kept seeking God on what He wanted me to do but the waiting was getting more difficult.  A GLC position in CCF became available and I thought, maybe this was what God wanted me to do and not the Online Evangelism job. I went to CCF to meet the GLC director and I was told that they really wanted me however there was no definite timeframe on when they would hire. It was very clear that God was once again saying, “No.”  That was another day I will never forget.  I was discouraged and everything just overwhelmed me. I felt like I gave up my career for nothing!  On my way home that day, I cried and got a bit annoyed with God. I asked Him, “Why don’t you want me to work fulltime for you when I already gave up my career and my dreams so that I can fully serve you? It just doesn’t make sense.” At the end of that day, I just gave up and surrendered to God. I stopped rationalizing. I decided to stop asking what, how, why, when. He wanted me to stay still and wait. And the only thing I can really do was to obey. And, so I did.

After four days, God gave me an answer. Feb. 22, 2014 – I got an email from Canada Immigration requesting my passport. My PR application for Canada was approved! I honestly thought it would not happen anymore because I already gave up on that dream.

That day, God once again showed to me how sovereign and gracious He is. Everything started making sense beginning that day.  For example leaving my job allowed me spend quality time with my family and friends before I left for Canada. Because I had a lot of free days, I was able to volunteer and be part of the Ravi Zacharias Conference in CCF.  And while I had financial challenges for my move to Canada, God was faithful and He provided for all my needs. He even prepared the way for me when I learned that just 1 month before arriving in Canada, CCF Vancouver launched and I had a home church to go to! I realized God did not really say, “No” to my desire to serve Him fulltime. It’s just that what He had in mind was different with what I had in mind. He allowed me to serve and be a part of this church-planting movement and meet such a loving family of God.  He also gave back to me what I surrendered to Him – my dreams, my career. Obedience is truly hard and it is only through the help of the Holy Spirit that we can take that step to keep trusting God amidst uncertainties. There were so many blessings that came with walking in faith and obedience. Indeed, He is an awesome and faithful God!

And while I am grateful for all those blessings, I honestly consider them as bonuses. The greatest reward I received was experiencing God in a very personal and intimate way as He led me on a journey that resulted in deeper faith and dependence on Him. Those moments will always remind me of the amazing love of God and how real Jesus is. Because of Jesus, who is my Lord, my Savior, my Source of peace and the Author of my faith, I was able to walk in faith and get out of the boat of comfort, self-reliance, fears and worries. Apart from Jesus, I will never be able to walk in faith towards the unknowns in my life.

My name is Stifany Araneta, I was self-reliant and I feared uncertainties in life but now by the grace of God through Jesus Christ and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I continue to learn to depend on God and not on myself. I continue to learn to walk in faith and not by sight.  On times of waiting and uncertainty, Hebrews 12:2 says, let us fix our eyes on Jesus always, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Praise and Glory be to God!Sunset chaser

Behind the Scene

One of the blessings I will forever be grateful to God is to have the gift of administration (1 Corinthians 12:28).  Having this gift has allowed me to take responsibilities that I didn’t know I am capable of doing, not just for the church but even at my work place or in my own personal day to day life. The credit all goes to God for entrusting me to do all types of work that He has been preparing me to do.

And do you know what’s great about this gift? It allows you to see what’s happening behind the scene. You get the privilege to see how God works and makes things happen.

Last weekend (June 9-11), our church (CCF Vancouver) went for our first ever church retreat focused on intentional discipleship. Our church leaders asked me to help in organizing the retreat, and as always, it is a privilege for me. No better way to use my time than doing things for the Lord.

When you plan for an event, your enemy is perfection. Of course, you want everything to go as you expect it to be, that includes the things that you can’t even control like weather. But just like any event I have helped organized, not everything we planned went smoothly. That’s why it is very important for me to always let the Holy Spirit lead me. It is not easy when you want to be in control of the flow. But God was not just at work for the event, He was also at work with my heart.

By God’s grace, I learned to submit and recognize the authority of the leaders of the church. As we did planning, there were disagreements but I always reminded myself that God gives wisdom to our leaders to make the right decisions as the Spirit led them. So, if I have to adjust schedules of the event, I must submit. I tell you, it’s never easy.

By God’s grace, I learned to say no to activities that will take my time to focus on planning. Weeks before the camp, I had to free up my weekdays after work so that I can work on preparations for the camp. I had to turn down invitations. It was not easy but I am no superwoman. I can only do much for a day.

By God’s grace, I learned to be more patient. During the last days before the camp, there were so many last minute changes and concerns which some required coordination back and forth. These things were inevitable. And all I can do was to ask God to just sustain me and give me the right heart. It wasn’t easy.

God showed to me that despite my lack of and my weaknesses, He can accomplish great things because it is His work. All His doing.

When the sunny forecast months before turned to a heavy rain forecast weeks before the event, we kept praying. God heard our prayer! We never experienced rain all throughout the weekend. Even if the forecast for the day showed potential rain, rain did not come. We were able to enjoy our outdoor activities, our baptism  and our camp fire fellowship. Only God can do that.

Weeks before the camp, as I was finalizing room assignments, I had some challenges. All I did was really pray that everyone will find their accommodation comfortable. Then, last minute changes happened which surprisingly helped resolve the challenges I had. A family has to cancel because of a sad news that they had to leave the country on the day of the retreat. God reminded me that indeed He is the one who could only appoint people to be in a certain place, event and time.  With that incident, God showed me how He can use something unfortunate into something good for His work. He cares about the details.

God also provided us a beautiful venue for the retreat – Camp Charis.  It’s not just the place but also the people who worked at Camp Charis. They were very accommodating with our last minute requests. I saw God working through them. Everything we needed, they were able to provide. Only God can do that. Indeed, no one can hamper His plans.

When we had our second round of baptism, we thought we will not be able to use the pool when we changed our time. Nothing can stop the work of God. The group who reserved to use the pool decided not to use it as they had to leave immediately at that time. Just amazing! To add, there were 7 people who planned to be baptized but it turned into 17 people including our NxtGen Kids! Amazing!

One of my favorite to witness behind the scene was the work of the volunteers. On the day of the event, all I did was coordination. The volunteers were the ones who were doing things in action. They used their gifts, talents and skills for God’s work.  There is no big or small gift, talent or skill.  All are needed to do the work of God. And it’s just amazing to see and discover potentials of people.

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another… Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10-11)

I can not put into this blog everything I experienced with God behind the scene. In every little detail, He was there.  It was a Spirit-filled retreat. And my prayer, that retreat would leave marks in the lives of all who were there to cause them to act to the purpose of why they were in that retreat in the first place. And that is to pursue INTENTIONAL DISCIPLESHIP. Same prayer goes to myself.

To God be the glory!!!

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 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

It doesn’t matter

One thing I am grateful for social media is it allows me to see the world. I see vacation posts, heartbreaking stories, inspiring stories, government updates, economic news,  parenting tips, etc. You name it.

Though, whatever I read or see triggers different thoughts and emotions in me. I would wish I can go for a vacation also. Or, I wish I could help. Or, I get disapppointed. Or, I want to encourage too. 

But when all of those thoughts and emotions pass, I would ALWAYS be reminded of God’s Word. “Set your mind on things above and not on earthly things.” I always ask the question, “Does it really matter to God?”

…if I go or not go for a vacation?

…if the whole world does not know my own little acts of kindness?

…if I live in a country with economic problems?

…if I can only inspire one or two compared to others who can inspire the world?

…if I don’t ever become a parent?

God’s answer to me, “The Lord DELIGHTS in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”‭‭ Psalm‬ ‭147:11‬

That’s what matters to God. How I honor Him, fear Him, love Him. The condition of my heart is really what matters to God. I should never measure the worth of my life by earthly things. And I can only do this if I have Jesus in my life, His Son whom He is well pleased.

#thoughtsbeforeisleep

Risk, Risk and More Risks

It’s my first official blog for 2017!! Woohoo! I feel like each year, I’ve been writing less and less and less. But it’s okay. It’s not like I have tons of readers. Lol!

This was suppose to be my “a year that was” blog, reminiscing and recalling the great things that happened in my 2016. But, nah… Really, nothing big happened last year for me. No big events, no big travels, well I got a raise, so that’s good, but really, in the definition of this world’s success – it was a plain and boring year. Yes, not even a love life. Nothing. Yes, still single. Don’t ask again. Zip it!

But……. *drum roll* Yes, but. Even if nothing big happened externally in my life. I was changed big time internally – opposite of externally. Internally. Get that? Not my organs, they’re healthy, nothing enlarged. You know what I mean…

Most of you might not know, I am not a risk taker. I never liked uncertainties. But, when you start aging (in a good way), you just really have to do it. Past years, God took me to a lot of uncertainties which really pushed me to just step out in faith. A risk for God’s sake, I must say. But last year, I took a different kind of risk. A risk I never thought I could really do. And by God’s grace, I was able to.

I learned the RISK of LIVING LESS. Since I started working, I always had this conviction that it’s okay once in a while to pamper yourself with “GOOD” things. I realize, I can pamper myself just fine with a good movie or a meaningful time with friends. I also had this must-have to always have travels every year. And I only consider travel a travel if it is outside the country where live. I know… my definition is wrong. Not only that, I also decided to spend less time in social media. Instagram out last year. And hopefully this year, I will start using FB more as a tool for encouragement and less about myself.

I started living less not because I thought those things were wrong but because I have finally grown up (I think *wink* & still growing). It is because I cannot have everything in this world. I always have to give up something to be able to gain the more important things in life. Like, no out of the country travels which let me saved my vacation days and I was able to go home to Philippines and spent time with my family which I had not seen for more than 2 years. Like, controlling my spending (fact: I was shopping-free last year!) for long term goals for me and my family. No social media to get more sleep at night and wake up early for consistent quiet time – very important!! Trust me, there were days when it’s just so tempting to book a flight and go on my bucket list trip. It was not an easy change of lifestyle, but I must say now, it was so worth it.

It’s been a very humbling 2016 for me. It’s pretty hard to live with less. And really, I will say it again that it is truly God’s sustaining grace and joy that has brought me this far. The journey has just started, more risks to take as I continue to desire to pursue the things that would truly bring lasting value in this lifetime and beyond.

The big change in me? Learning, still learning and will continue to learn to live less that Jesus may always be greater in my life. All for His glory.

A Christ-filled 2017 to you!

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